Batman Beyond Vol.1: Escaping the Grave
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Bernard Chang, Ryan Sook, Pete Woods
After a year-long absence, Terry McGinnis returns to take on the identity of Batman in a futuristic neo-noir Gotham City. This time an entire borough of the city has fallen into the hands of The Jokerz, a cult that worships the deceased villain. Another enemy, Terminal, has taken advantage of this religious fervor and is using the cult for a mysterious purpose. Without Bruce Wayne to guide him any longer, Terry must strike out on his own and prove his worth to continue the legacy of Batman.
I have never been enamored with the concept of Batman Beyond. I remember watching a few episodes on Kids’ WB in my dorm room, but I think I might have not been the age group marketed towards. Though I am a big fan of that era of DC animation, and love Justice League Unlimited, Beyond just never struck a chord with me. The only time it came close was in the Epilogue episode of the first season of JL Unlimited where they ingeniously brought together the various animated strands and series.
The concept of Batman Beyond in the DC Universe proper has been convoluted, to say the least. In the wake of the Infinite Crisis storyline, this possible future popped up in the comics and eventually got its own title, sticking pretty close to the cartoon series.Things got complicated when the Future’s End storyline was published and had this future overrun by Terminator-esque robots that assimilated various DC heroes. Terry McGinnis traveled back to the 21st century to stop these events from coming to pass. The story takes place a couple years into the future from the current DC timeline and is made that much more complicated. The gist for me was that this entire timeline was erased at the end, so nothing really mattered anyway. The one carryover was that McGinnis died and Tim Drake, the former Robin now a grown adult, traveled to the future and took McGinnis’s place. I have not read that short-lived series, but at some point, the editors just said, “Nope, McGinnis is still alive, and we’re resetting everything.”
I think my problem with the Terry McGinnis character, and it is highlighted in this collection, is that he has zero personality. Bruce Wayne has a feel to his personality when he talks or takes action. Terry just seems like a one-dimensional archetype. I think the appeal of the character has been the costume design because beyond that unique attribute there is very little to our protagonist. His supporting cast also feels bland and generic. The villain, Terminal, just feels like the writers saying future villains have to be tech based. The Jokerz gang never feels like an actual threat, only souped-up Juggalos. There is potential here, with Blade Runner running about in my head currently, to really play up the futuristic noir elements of Gotham City. I would love to see such an iconic city reimagined with that bleak dystopian tone. Instead, even our setting is just bland.
There is a twist in the final act of this story that I know was intended to make the reader gasp in shock. And, while it was unexpected, I just sort of felt meh about the whole story. I was never invested enough to care about this twist because the characters were written so generically. I was a big fan of Dan Jurgens back in his Superman days in the early-mid 1990s. His work along with Louise Simonson and Roger Stern sort of shaped my personal image of that character. But this feels like one of the many reasons DC should seek out new talent rather than keep recycling writers from decades past, particularly on characters I don’t believe they have much connection to.